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Current and former world leaders demand freedom for Assange

George Galloway on Julian Assange

Workers Party leaders have joined politicians and heads of state from around the world in calling on the British government to halt the farcical extradition proceedings of Julian Assange and set him free.

A remarkable international letter was been signed on 21 September by 161 heads of state, former heads of state, ministers, parliamentarians and diplomats urging the UK government to halt Julian Assange’s extradition proceedings and to grant his immediate release from Belmarsh prison in London, where he has been held in solitary confinement by British authorities without legal grounds since April 2019. 

The final three weeks of Julian’s extradition hearing began on 7 September 2020 at the Old Bailey. He is charged by the Trump government with publishing the Afghan and Iraq war logs – that is, of helping to expose American war crimes – for which he could face 175 years in jail. 

Mr Assange’s lawyers have experienced huge problems communicating with their client. According to Edward Fitzgerald QC: “We’ve had great difficulties in getting into Belmarsh to take instructions from Mr Assange and to discuss the evidence with him. We simply cannot get in as we require to see Mr Assange and to take his instruction.”

The signatories to the international letter include Alberto Fernández, president of Argentina (2019-), Dilma Rousseff, former president of Brazil (2011-16), Evo Morales Ayma, former president of Bolivia (2006-19), Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, former president of Brazil (2003-10), Rafael Correa, former president of Ecuador (2007-17), José Luis Zapatero, former prime minister of Spain (2004-11), Jeremy Corbyn, former leader of Labour party (2015-20), Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Nobel prize laureate, members of the European parliament, and other parliamentarians worldwide.

Workers Party of Britain leader George Galloway and deputy leader Joti Brar have also signed the letter.

The unprecedented appeal to the British government by the international political community endorses the legal opinion given by international legal experts in an open letter on 18 August.

That letter expressed grave concerns about the political prosecution of Mr Assange, the flagrant violation of his fundamental rights, the violation of domestic and international law by Britain, and the illegality of the Trump administration’s prosecution – in particular, the attempt to extend the reach of the US’s legal system beyond its own territory. 

Coming on top of that legal opinion, the most recent international letter shows the growing understanding across the legal and political spectrum that the potential extradition of Mr Assange by the UK to the USA would set a precedent that violates historical international agreements and human rights.

It would give the green light to political prosecutions, to the criminalisation of investigative journalism as espionage; and it would affirm the worldwide jurisdiction of the United States as well as the right to absolute secrecy of states in regard to war crimes, state torture and corruption.

The full open letter with legal opinion is available to read in seven languages. The full list of signatories and political endorsements can also be seen on the Lawyers for Assange website.

“Who cannot tremble with indignation at what is happening to Julian Assange? This man who should be in Oslo getting the Nobel peace prize is being stripped and searched by goons, handcuffed and held in cells. This is an obscenity carried out in a country that pretends to believe in the rule of law.”

George Galloway

“The right of Mr Assange to personal liberty should be restored.”

UN working group on arbitrary detention

“If the democrats of planet earth, including all journalists, all lawyers, all trade unionists, all politicians, don’t have the courage to speak up in defence of Assange to halt his extradition; it means that there are a lot of democrats that are liars; it means that the idea that the freedom of the press is enshrined by the prominent newspapers is a lie … It will not be the knee of a policeman killing a black man; it will be the knee of millions of leaders worldwide choking Assange to death. And we have no right to allow that.”

Lula da Silva, former president of Brazil

“Were Julian Assange to be extradited or subjected to any other transfer to the USA, Britain would be in breach of its obligations under international law.”

Massimo Moratti, Amnesty International

“The only thing standing between an Assange prosecution and a major threat to global media freedom is Britain. It is urgent that it defend the principles at risk.”

human rights watch

“US charges against Assange pose a huge threat, one that could criminalise the critical work of investigative journalists and their ability to protect their sources.”

National Union of Journalists

“Assange is being arrested because he has revealed to the world abuses committed by the US government and large corporations. The intention is to ban the truth and prevent the free flow of information. His imprisonment is an attack on democracy, and the democratic press cannot remain silent.”

Dilma Rousseff, former president of Brazil

“If their case is essentially that Mr Assange broke the law by obtaining and disclosing secret information, then I struggle to see what separates him from any journalist who solicits, obtains and publishes such information. This includes the editors of the many American media outlets that reported the material … why should Mr Assange be tried, convicted and incarcerated while those who publicly released the information are afforded protection under provisions of the US constitution concerning press freedom?”

Kevin Rudd, former prime minister of Australia

“If we let this fall through, if this slip happens, then really, what is the difference if he did something that was an affront to Koranic law and Saudi Arabia asked for him to be extradited to Saudi Arabia, although he wasn’t there? … This is an issue for Australians at the highest level. I call on Minister Payne, and I call on the attorney-general for their very best efforts in making sure that the sovereignty of our nation is respected.”

Barnaby Joyce, former deputy prime minister of Australia